A UK judge has declared a gay couple who paid more than £40,000 for three surrogate mothers to give birth to three babies in less than six months the legal parents of the children, despite commercial surrogacy being illegal.
The gay dads, who cannot be named, found the three surrogates on a Facebook surrogacy forum. Ms Justice Russell, who presided over the case at London’s High Court, said the couple had lied to courts and social workers about how much they paid the mothers. UK law only allows altruistic surrogacy, ruling that surrogates can only be paid ‘reasonable expenses’.
But despite doling out between £10,000 and £15,000 to each surrogate – and having kept no records of expenses – the judge ultimately decided it was in the best interests of the babies to remain with their fathers.
Commercial surrogacy illegal, but parenting skills ‘excellent’
The children’s court-appointed guardian had spoken very favorably of the couple’s parenting, calling them ‘completely attentive fathers’ who took ‘enormous pride and joy’ in their children and showed ‘excellent’ parenting skills.
The judge said the court-appointed guardian had ‘had doubts about the wisdom of having three children so close together’ but was won over by ‘their care of the children and the love and delight that they had in their family’.
The babies are all the biological children of one or the other of the fathers and the judge conceded the couple had maintained ‘warm and close relationships’ with all three surrogates.
Judge condemns online ‘surrogacy market’
However, though the couple are now the legally recognized parents of their three babies, Ms Justice Russell condemned their efforts to conceal how much they had paid the surrogates.
UK law forbids surrogate mothers from making a profit from the process.
However, after hearing evidence from the surrogates, the judge said she was satisfied they had acted out of altruism and made no real financial gain from birthing the babies.
The judge added that they had freely and unconditionally consented to bear the couple’s children.
Ms Justice Russell did, however, speak out against the ‘online surrogacy market’, warning against exchanging cash for babies, and called the couple’s efforts to cover up their payments ‘dishonest’ and ‘reprehensible’.